Less than 1 percent of the 30 million+ businesses in the US export – despite the fact that 95% of the world’s population and two-thirds of the global purchasing power lies outside of America’s borders. This represents an enormous market opportunity for all companies, regardless of size or industry.
Yet many companies fail to take advantage of this opportunity. The National Center for the Middle Market, in partnership with the Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings, identified the top 10 obstacles reported by small and mid-sized companies.
The good news for Dublin and Columbus Region companies: there are a multitude of resources available to companies exploring global business development, many of which are either free or cost-reduced through grant programs. In fact, many of these programs and resources are designed to respond directly to these commonly cited reasons not to export.
Take a look at the 10 exporting obstacles below to see which ones you identify with, and learn about the resources your company can benefit from to grow globally:
- Talent: 57% of companies surveyed reported that their firms lack key capabilities and resources, and/or that their resources are consumed by domestic business development.
- Ohio Export Internship Program: Bring on a Fisher College of Business student intern. Interns are vetted by OSU and the Ohio Development Services Agency and have access to top experts in international business development. Students with prior experience abroad are preferred. Since the program began in 2012, 144 students have been placed with companies, 34 internships have been extended beyond the initial semester, and 25 job offers have been made. Bonus: receive up to $3,600 reimbursement for intern wages through the program.
- Ohio Development Services Agency (ODSA) Export Assistance Network: Receive free, confidential counseling from international trade specialists and learn how to put together your international business development plan and team of experts.
- US Commercial Services/Export.gov: Don’t worry about having to find and hire an expert right off the bat – the USCS team can help you identify the best international markets for your company, and then connect you with a global network of trade professionals to help launch your international business plan.
- Capital: Some companies find that local banks lack international capabilities, or aren’t sure if they’re willing to commit funds to the risky prospect of exploring international markets.
- IMAGE Grant: If you’re just dipping your toe in global market exploration waters, the IMAGE Grant is for you – it’s a 50% reimbursement program designed to offset costs associated with international marketing initiatives including trade shows/missions, marketing material and website translation, and export education programs.
- EXIM Bank: The Export-Import Bank of the US is an independent federal agency that fills gaps in private export finance in order to bolster US job growth. EXIM provides trade financing solutions from credit insurance, working capital guarantees, and guarantees of commercial loans to foreign buyers.
- Leadership Commitment to Growing Exports: 39% of companies reported that leadership wasn’t sufficiently committed to growing exports.
- US Commercial Services/Export.gov: Want to export, but not sure where to start, or how to convince leadership that it’s a worthwhile investment? The USCS has a plethora of online resources, including “Export U,” which is a series of free webinars, and “A Basic Guide to Exporting,” whose reasons to explore exporting will help you make your case.
- Ohio Development Services Agency (ODSA) Export Assistance Network: Once you know how to make the case to your company’s leadership, work with the ODSA Export Assistance Network to assemble your export strategy. It’s free and confidential – what do you have to lose?
- Sales Force: Many companies are daunted by the perceived overseas networks required in order to successfully execute an international sales strategy, from selecting the right sales personnel to identifying potential customers.
- Ohio Export Internship Program: Once you’ve hired your OEIP intern (and received reimbursement for up to 50% of their wages), ask them to create a sales and marketing plan as part of their internship project for your company.
- US Commercial Services: Build on your OEIP intern’s sales and marketing strategy by signing up for USCS’s Gold Key Business Matchmaking Service, where you can connect with pre-screened potential partners and meet with industry/government decision makers in your target markets for a nominal fee.
- IMAGE Grant: Once you have your target market identified, apply for an IMAGE grant to offset the costs of travel to trade shows and/or market exploration mission trips.
- Legal and Regulatory Expertise: The “fear of the unknown” in terms of international regulations, currency risks, and other perceived challenges often translates to a decision to forgo global business expansion.
- Ohio Export Internship Program: The talented OEIP students and their professional mentors can help companies identify legal risks and regulatory hurdles as part of early market exploration.
- ODSA Export Assistance Network: ODSA’s broad network of professionals and partners can connect you to the right resources to answer questions specific to your industry.
- Chambers of Commerce: If you’ve already identified a potential international market, consider attending programs and networking events sponsored by local international chambers of commerce such as JASCO, the Greater Columbus Chinese Chamber of Commerce, and AIABG (among many others) to meet local experts.
- Market Research: Among many enterprises, there is a perceived lack of demand in foreign markets for their goods and services – but more often than not, companies don’t see the demand because they haven’t looked. Others may be aware of potential demand, but don’t know how to properly market their products overseas.
- Ohio Export Internship Program: Market research is another area where OEIP interns have a proven track record of successfully preparing marketing plans, websites, and collateral for companies interested in entering specific overseas markets.
- US Commercial Services: The USCS team also provides market intelligence and due diligence services, such as analyses of potential markets for foreign competitors; identifying best prospects, financing, laws, and cultural issues; and conducting background checks on potential buyers and distributors. The USCS also maintains a free Market Research Library containing overviews on doing business in more than 120 countries and profiles of 110 different industries.
- Supply Chain/Logistics: Many companies are intimidated by the ostensibly daunting task of finding high quality, cost effective supply chain partners, both at home and abroad, to distribute goods and services.
- Ohio Export Internship Program: Yes – the OEIP interns can help with this research as well. And remember – your company can apply to have up to $3,600 of their wages reimbursed through ODSA!
- ODSA Export Assistance Network: The ODSA network of experts at the local, regional, and state level frequently conduct overseas business missions and maintain strong supply chain and distribution relationships that companies looking to export are encouraged to tap into.
- US Commercial Services: The USCS is equipped to help companies identify their overseas distributors, agents, and other partners through their International Partner Search in as soon as 30 days from the initial request, and establish a vetted distribution network through the Gold Key Matching Service.
- Investments in R&D: US companies unfamiliar with international intellectual property rights may view expansion into new global markets as too risky.
- Ohio Export Internship Program: Good news – OEIP interns can help companies conduct exploratory research to understand the intellectual property rights landscape of target international markets.
- ODSA Export Assistance Network: As with regulatory concerns, the broad network of export professionals can connect you to the right resources to answer questions specific to your industry.
- Language Skills: Related to the Talent factor, companies may believe it’s necessary to have staff that can speak the language of the target market and are familiar with the culture.
- Ohio Export Internship Program: Many OEIP students have extensive experience abroad and can assist companies with navigating language barriers.
- Chambers of Commerce: Meet local experts in your target markets at international chambers of commerce programs such as JASCO, the Greater Columbus Chinese Chamber of Commerce, and AIABG, among others.
- Columbus Council on World Affairs: The CCWA provides a number of training programs, including Global Fluency Training, to help companies and individuals learn about business culture in target overseas markets.
- Some Other Capability: If you can come up with another reason not to export, there’s a good chance that the export assistance network can help you find a solution.
This is just the tip of the iceberg – there are many, many more resources available to your company, many of which are either free or cost-reduced through grant programs.
RACHEL RAY, AICP
What are you waiting for? Contact the Dublin Economic Development team today to learn more about these and other programs and resources to grow your business locally and globally.